Innovation and Inspiration at the DREAMer Hackathon

Posted by on December 09, 2013.


Thirty-something years ago, my father moved to the United States to be the first in his family to earn a graduate degree. Soon after, he married my mother in India and together they built a family in the suburbs of Chicago. They did all this so my brother and I could have more and better choices.

Today, I’m a designer at Pivotal Labs, and love the work I do. None of my successes in life would have been possible without my parents doing all the work it took to come to the U.S. That’s why I care about immigration reform.

So I was excited when asked me to become a mentor for the Hackathon they were organizing combining DREAMer (undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children) entrepreneurship with immigration advocacy. matched up DREAMers with designers and developers in Silicon Valley to build tools that would motivate change for immigration reform., founded by the CEOs of Facebook, Dropbox, and LinkedIn -- Mark Zuckerberg, Drew Houston, and Reid Hoffman, respectively -- hosted the two day Hackathon at LinkedIn headquarters. Hackathon teams received one-on-one product critiques from Zuckerberg, Houston, Hoffman, journalist and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas, Groupon Founder Andrew Mason, Kapor Centor Managing Partner Nicole Sanchez, and the mentors, who hacked alongside the teams.

During the Hackathon, I personally worked remotely with a DREAMer who ending up building a robust and beautiful storytelling Rails app for people who want to share stories and inspire change about their cause. His experience-focused stories always end with the same thing: what to do next, and how to take action.

I was matched with his project just before the Hackathon began. He was incredibly talented and from the very beginning had innovative ideas and an aggressive plan to finish his project before the 25 hours of coding was up. We did rounds of product and scenario critique while I supported him with visual design assets.

I also set up a Google Hangout so the FWD founders and mentors could critique his product. The founders and mentors shared great insights that helped plan and execute the DREAMer’s vision for the project.

Despite the connection lag during his demo from New York, Mark Zuckerburg remembered how smooth the design and animations were, as well as how powerful the stories could be.

Then, he won Best Design. I couldn’t have been prouder.

My time at the Hackathon surrounded by so many talented DREAMers reaffirmed the need to change our broken immigration policies to allow the knowledge economy to thrive.

Help make it easier for super smart coders and designers like my teammate to stay in the U.S. by making a 1-minute call to your representative and telling them we need change.


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